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Types of Channel Letters

Examples of Channel Letter Signs by Pinnacle Custom Signs an Atlanta Sign Company

What are Channel Letters?

Channel letters are 3D custom-made signs or letters fabricated from aluminum or plastic and are typically exterior signs. A few customers have used them for lobby signs. The majority of channel letters are illuminated, but not all.

Channel Letter Signs at the Mall of Georgia by Pinnacle Custom Signs, Lawrenceville GA
Mall of Georgia Leather Creations brand refresh. Day and Night photos of typical channel letters.

The most common type of channel letter is front-lit, illuminated internally with LEDs lighting the face. Faces for channel letters usually are acrylic. The color elements of the logo are translucent vinyl, or the color of the acrylic itself can be a specific color, as long as it matches the standard colors available.

When we do quotes for individual channel or channel letters that are front-lit, we generally go with a 4.3-inch depth coil. This gives us a four-inch depth on our returns(The side of a channel letter is known as a return), and our faces are all acrylic. So in that essence, that would be our standard sizing and materials.

The materials used for fabricating channel letters make them highly customizable. Let’s dive into different variations of channel letters.

Types of Channel Letters

Halo-Reverse Lit Channel Letters

Halo-Reverse Lit Channel letters in Metro Atlanta
Doodle Pies – Halo Effect Channel Letters on Aluminum Backer.

Halo or reverse-lit channel letters create an effect of a light cloud behind the letters. Some customers prefer this style over front-lit letters, as it gives a nice pop of color behind the sign.

As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. That can be true for creating halo channel letters.

Doodle Pies is one example of a halo effect channel letter sign. For this job, we mounted the letters on an aluminum pan backer. The backer panel covers up the brick and allows the light to reflect off the pan rather than the brick. In doing so, the halo effect is cleaner and leads to a brighter pop.

Depending on the depth of the letters requested, we can either use the Accu Bend machine(a machine that creates the sides of the channel letters) or create the shape of the letters by hand. The Doodle Pies design was pretty straightforward from a fabrication standpoint. Two other jobs, however, got a little more hands-on attention.

Channel Letters lobby sign in Atlanta
Slim Studio – Decided to use Halo Lit Channel Letters in their lobby.

Slim Studio, for example, the customer requested a two-inch depth for the letter. Our fabrication department took individual pieces of aluminum and sheared them down to two-inch strips. Alex then bent the strips by hand and welded the returns together. This process will take more time, but it will provide a cleaner look and allow more customization.

Why Do People Choose Halo Lit or Reverse Channel Letters?

People Choose Halo Lit or Reverse channel letters over front-lit because they feel it looks nicer during the day and at night. During the day, it appears like you have a thick deep aluminum channel letter with metal faces. At night the sign comes to life with the glow behind it.

Channel Cloud

Customers will choose to have a channel cloud when they want the look of individual channel letters but are on a tighter budget.

FANDOMIE – Same great look as individual channel letters but budget-friendly.

As an example, Fandomie is a client of ours who chose to go with a channel cloud. Going this route allowed them to maximize the size of the sign and budget. Instead of fabricating eight individual letters, we are bending one large shape, which outlines the letters in their name.

A time crunch can also play a role in a customer deciding to do a channel cloud. The turnaround time for a channel cloud could be closer to a week, whereas a standard channel letter set could take a couple of weeks, depending on the design and number of letters or elements.

Just like any sign, it’s the customer’s preference on what they desire, what they have in mind, or what their budget dictates.

Collage of Channel Cloud Signs – Once in a Blue Moon Tattoo combines a Channel Cloud and Standard Channel Letters.

Non-Illuminated Channel Letters

Elliott Aviation – Handcrafted aluminum Non-Illuminated Channel Letters.

Non-Illuminated Channel Letters are channel letters that don’t light. Various factors go into the decision of whether or not to go with illuminated vs. non-illuminated. Four major factors seem to be jurisdictions, budgets, landlords, and the environment.

Elliott Aviation, for example, went with Non-Illuminated channel letters above their hangar. Their main reason for going with non-illuminated is because it’s a private airfield and there isn’t a lot of plane traffic at night. That’s not to say they can’t at a later date go back and add LEDs to the project. At the time it didn’t make much sense to light the sign.

Kelly and Kate Boutique is an example where they are just starting out and wanted to save a little money. It’s still a great look and a feasible option for about 15-20% lower cost.

Front and Back Lit Channel Letters

Agnes Scott College – Front & Back Lit Gym Lobby Sign

This type of channel letter combines the standard front lit letter with the qualities of a reverse-lit channel letter. Agnes Scott College was looking for something to pop and catch people’s eyes as they walk towards the gym. Their desire was for the sign to be lighted at all times.

They chose to use their Terrier mascot as the basis for the sign. The front of the sign has white lighting that illuminates the vinyl print on the face, and the back is lit with purple to create a halo effect behind the logo. It’s something different but delivers a clean, sharp look.

Various sets of Channel Letters we have done from 2021-2022. Nava Taqueria (Top Left) Is an open face channel letter. MIDGARD Self Storage (Top Right) Is a client we do sets of channel letters for regularly. Church On The Hill (Middle) Is a 26-foot monument sign that we installed channel letters onto. Buford Academy of Music (Bottom Left) & Matt Highway Storage (Bottom Right) Are standard channel letters at night. Havertys (Bottom Middle) Are backlit channel letters that have new LEDs.

Making the Final Decision

When it comes to deciding which style of channel letters to use it’s the customer’s preference. Once we know what the customer desires, what their budget dictates, and what is permitted by both the jurisdiction and landlord, we will guide them down the path that best suits their needs. Our goal is to maximize their budget and get them the best-looking sign possible. At the end of the day what makes us happy is seeing our customers happy.